|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Slovenian Foreign Minister Zoran Thaler
Press remarks, Presidential Palace
Ljubljana, Slovenia, July 12, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in Ljubljana, Slovenia
U.S. Department of State
FOREIGN MINISTER THALER: Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you here, also the Secretary of State, Mrs. Albright. We have just finished the talks, which were very fruitful, good and effective. Mrs. Albright had discussions with the President of the Government, Mr. Drnovsek, and with the President of the State, Mr. Kucan. Let me first express my pleasure that here in Slovenia today we can be the host of the Secretary of State of the United States. We are very pleased with the talks so far. It was a very fruitful exchange of views on many aspects of the relations between the United States and Slovenia.
Let me tell you at the beginning that the talks we had were geared mostly to the future of our bilateral relations. All of you know that we strongly support the enlargement of NATO under the leadership of the United States. We see this as a historic event and achievement, and one of the basic instruments for creating a Europe without borders and divisions, a democratic continent. Slovenia is very pleased that enlargement did take place and it congratulates the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, as well as the peoples of these countries, for having been invited to join NATO.
For Slovenia, it is known that it was disappointed that it was not admitted already in the first round of enlargement. But on the other hand, we take the arguments and the explanations of the American administration which were exposed here by the Secretary of State, and we are very pleased with the talks we had today with the Americans. This dialogue shows that the Republic of Slovenia is a partner of the United States. We have a good impression that the United States appreciates our achievements since the independence of Slovenia and that they view us as a successful member of the democratic community. Slovenia sees itself as a future member of the EU and NATO, the expansion of both which will continue.
We assured Secretary Albright that the Republic of Slovenia will continue along the track of developing and consolidating its democracy, along the track of respect for human rights and nationalities, as well as the development of the market. Slovenia has been active and will continue to be more active in CEFTA, SECI, trilateral relations with Italy and Hungary, as well as in southeast Europe. We have so far participated in SFOR and Operation Alba, the operation in Albania, and of course our cooperation and participation in peace-keeping forces in Cyprus.
As I said before, we fully support the enlargement process of NATO, which should be an open process leading to a democratic and free Europe. We have underlined our readiness and our wish that, together with the United States, we will continue to build our friendship and our partnership and today's talks have contributed a lot to the same. I now invite Madam Albright to present her introduction.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Mr. Foreign Minister. I have just had some very productive meetings with President Kucan, with Prime Minister Drnovsek, and with the Foreign Minister. I have been to Slovenia many times as a child and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, but this is my first visit as Secretary of State and the first visit by an American Secretary of State to Slovenia. So I am very, very pleased to be here. We talked about Slovenia's steady progress toward integration with the European and transatlantic community of democracies and its institutions, including NATO. We admire Slovenia's achievements in preparing this country for NATO membership.
NATO is the most effective military alliance in history -- and that is precisely why Slovenia wishes to join it. To keep NATO strong we have said that new members must be willing and able to assume full responsibilities of membership.
Slovenia has made major progress toward meeting that standard, especially given its strong, stable democracy and relatively developed economy. Slovenia has also made a solid start in developing a small, but capable military. And now we must work together to ensure that Slovenia achieves the capacity we expect from a NATO member of its size.
We also encourage Slovenia to show that it is ready to make an even greater contribution to the security of Europe as a whole, especially central and southern Europe. And it is important that everybody remembers that membership in NATO is not just a validation of Slovenia's place in Europe. It is not an escape hatch from our common troubles in the Balkans. It means taking responsibility for the security of others, just as others take responsibility for your security.
Clearly, Slovenia is on the right road, as the support of many NATO members demonstrates. In Madrid, NATO specifically recognized Slovenia's progress as an aspiring member. And if that progress continues, I have every reason to believe that Slovenia will have the strongest possible case for NATO membership in the years ahead.
In turn, let me make a pledge on behalf of the United States. I pledge to you that the question today is not whether NATO will continue to take in new members, but when and how.
We are building an undivided community of freedom in Europe. That goal encompasses Slovenia, and Slovenia is our partner in achieving that. Thank you.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the statement just issued by the Slovenian government quotes you as saying Slovenia is the strongest candidate for membership in the next round. Can you confirm that that was what you told the Slovenian leaders.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we, the United States, feel very strongly that if Slovenia does stay on the track that it has established, and works to make sure the democratic reforms and the economic reforms are fully rooted, that there is no stronger candidate for membership in the next round than Slovenia. It has an excellent record to date and what I explained to the President and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister is that while there are no guarantees, there is no stronger candidate than Slovenia for the next round.
QUESTION: What, concretely, should Slovenia do -- must do -- to fulfill these conditions, in which field -- in politics, in economy? Very concretely, what should be done?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think there are basically three areas in which we would like to see additional movement. Politically, I think it is very important for the democratic reforms to continue, for there to be a vigorous democratic debate, and also a sense of non-partisanship in terms of how foreign policy is viewed, something that we are trying in our own country. Two, that there be a deepening of the economic reforms with the importance of making sure that foreign investment can in fact feel comfortable here, which means that there needs to be some legislation that moves in that direction. And militarily, we believe that it is very important for there to be military reforms for the military here, which needs to be modernized and streamlined. And there needs to be a greater sense of responsibility vis-à-vis the neighborhood in which Slovenia is, and we have seen some progress in this already with support in Albania, and also there will be some Slovenian participation in Cyprus.
So those are very positive trends and we would like to see more of that kind of a partnership. We hope very much that Slovenia will now take even greater advantage of some NATO-associated structures that provide for greater integration: the Partnership for Peace; the newly-established EAPC; and the intensified dialogues that will allow for there to be greater coordination and cooperation and dialogue that goes forward.
QUESTION: I am from the Washington Post -- a question for the Foreign Minister. Slovenia has a very small army. Can you tell us what you are doing to make your, to upgrade your armed forces, to make them more compatible with NATO and to carry out future NATO missions?
FOREIGN MINISTER THALER: Slovenia is a small nation, relatively small, and we have an army which is of the proper size, we believe. With the conscripts we have, when they are all together, we have around sixty men (sic) capable to bear arms. But the everyday level, there are a few thousand professionals and also conscripts. There is a plan to make it stronger on the level of the professional staff. This program has been going on since 1993, and it will last until 2001. This is also a program of investment in basic infrastructure in defense system. We are doing this being in NATO or not being in NATO. So it is a process which is necessary, and it is according to the NATO standards. This is stated in the law which established that program.
QUESTION: This is a follow-up. Do you want to buy the weapons, particularly airplanes, from the United States, and have you got an agreement to do that?
FOREIGN MINISTER THALER: There was some business already done and some others are under consideration.
QUESTION: Mihela Zupancic, Slovenian Press Agency. Secretary Albright, when President Clinton explained why the United States decided to support only three countries for NATO, he also said that the United States cannot support a country until they are perfectly sure of the stability of their democracy. Could you please explain what the deficiencies are of Slovenia's democracy, especially compared to the three invited countries.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what is important to view is the picture as a whole of countries that were invited and those who were mentioned as being prime candidates for the next tranche. I think it is a combination of issues where there has been a long-standing, or a longer-standing, politically mature system; where there has been a greater attempt to create a military that would be more suitable for integration into the most powerful military alliance in history; and where there has been a longer track record on the market reforms. So it is a combination of those particular criteria.
I think also it is fair to say that Slovenia is a new country that has had to establish all three of those tracks in a much shorter time than those that were admitted. Again, I would like to make very clear to the Slovenian people that our decision, the NATO decision, should not be viewed as a negative assessment of Slovenia. On the contrary, I think it should be seen as positive encouragement for all of those people as well as government officials and parliamentarians who are supporting these very positive trends that would put Slovenia in the middle of this great alliance. NATO is not a reward for good citizenship, but it is basically a system, an alliance of democracies that need to support each other and therefore need to be strong and are willing and able to take up the very difficult responsibilities of NATO membership.
New countries would not want to be members of NATO if NATO weakened itself in the process. For the alliance to expand to new members, the members need to be assured of the fact that each country can contribute to the cohesiveness and strength of NATO. One final point is that we feel very good about the Madrid decisions that not only underline the cohesiveness and strength of NATO, but made very clear that NATO was open to new membership and that it was not a question of whether countries would become part of it, but when.
QUESTION: A question from AFP. Madam Secretary, looking ahead to your trip to
St. Petersburg, how will you explain to Foreign Minister Primakov the decision to mention the Baltic states in the final communiqué at the Madrid Summit when the Russians have so clearly expressed anxieties over such moves?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have differed with the Russians on this question from the beginning. We believe that NATO is open to all democracies. That point has never changed, and I think that the Russians understand this. They have their way of expressing the issue, we have ours. We believe that the way that the Madrid Communiqué stated our support and interest in the Baltics is the appropriate way for the alliance to reflect our support for countries that follow the rule of law, have democratic institutions, and are desirous of becoming parts of NATO.
QUESTION: Gorazd Bohte, Delo daily newspaper. Madam Secretary, why did your government actually miss the opportunity to narrow the zone of instability in Europe by leaving Slovenia and Romania out of the first wave? Is it true, as Canadian Prime Minister Chretien suggests, that it is really all about the U.S. internal affairs?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are going to work systematically to make sure that Europe is undivided and free. That is the purpose of what we are doing in not only in enlarging NATO, but in a number of our other policies, bilaterally. President Clinton, in Romania yesterday, made quite clear that we were going to develop strong bilateral relationships with Romania, a strategic partnership.
I have made clear here that I want very much to assure Slovenia of our very strong bilateral partnership and very strong relationship. Frankly, I do not think that we would improve stability in central and eastern Europe if we were to take in members who we, as an alliance, did not believe would strengthen NATO. We have to keep our priorities straight. The only reason for expanding NATO is in order to make sure that the alliance is one that responds to current needs of the alliance and of the area into which it is expanding, that NATO remain the strongest alliance in the history of the world, and that it, in so doing, creates a larger alliance of democracies. That is the only reason that President Clinton has determined to move forward on NATO expansion.
QUESTION: Ms. Sisernik, Voice of America. Do you think that it could be a real situation, at the end of twentieth century, to form another, a different, Warsaw Pact by several countries of the former Soviet Union?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do not see that. No. I think that we are moving -- as we are at the end of the twentieth century -- into the twenty-first century where there will not be those kinds of divisions. That is what we are trying to overcome, a divided Europe. I think that what we saw in Madrid last week was the end of the division of Europe more concretely. Obviously the fall of the Berlin Wall was the end of the Cold War, and what we saw in Madrid was a visible sign of the end of a divided Europe. That is the policy that the United States and the other allies are going to pursue, and I do not foresee a new kind of pact of those who were part of the former Soviet Union.
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